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Hooked on Science

Students get hooked on science

Seventh graders from two Montgomery County middle schools examined brains, extracted DNA from strawberries, pulled bones from owl pellets, learned about epidemiology and tried their hands at forensics during the seventh annual Frontiers in Science & Medicine Day at the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center.

The collaborative event brings together Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus and several organizations in the neighborhood to introduce Montgomery County Public Schools seventh graders to careers in science and medicine. This year, students from Redland and Farquhar middle schools participated. (photo gallery)

Students spent part of the day at Johns Hopkins, where they participated in hands-on science and medicine activities. They spent the other part of the day visiting a local laboratory or hospital so they could experience what doctors and scientists do each day.

The Johns Hopkins University Center for Biotechnology Education ran two lab tours on campus. In one, students in the wet lab learned how DNA is used in forensics as they conducted experiments with DNA to help identify who ate the cat food in a mock scenario. In another, students learned about epidemiology and infectious diseases as they tracked the spread of a zombie virus at a mock carnival.

Biotech students pursuing master’s degrees also ran several hands-on activities, including the strawberry DNA extraction and the owl pellet examination. Approximately a dozen biotech students volunteered their time to work with the younger cohort.

“The Frontiers in Science and Medicine event is an opportunity for our graduate students to share their passion for science with middle schoolers,” said Dr. Kris Obom, director, Center for Biotechnology Education and program director, Bioinformatics and Biotechnology. “Our students volunteer their time to teach the next generation of scientists. This near-peer mentoring is beneficial for both the middle-schoolers and our graduate students.”

The lessons learned during Frontiers relate directly to the genetics unit under way in seventh-grade science classrooms in Montgomery County Public Schools.

“By participating in Frontiers in Science & Medicine, the students are able to experience real-world connections to the science content they are learning in seventh grade,” said Amy Gensemer, MCPS supervisor of the science, technology and engineering team. “Many students do not have family members working in the life science industries, and this experience opens up career fields for students in our local Montgomery County community.

“Middle school is a key time in a student’s education journey, when many students are looking into possible career choices and the courses they may pursue at the high school level,” Gensemer continued. (Watch MCPS video)

Schools and companies throughout the community opened their doors for the students. At Adventist Healthcare Shady Grove Medical Center, students learned how medical professionals use technology in emergency situations to save lives. At BioReliance, students gained an understanding of how a drug company ensures medicine is safe.

At Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute – which has offices and labs on the JHU Montgomery County Campus – students viewed brain specimen under microscopes.

Lab tours also were held at Institute for Bioscience & Biotechnology Research; Johns Hopkins University Wet Lab; National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences Chemical Genomics Center; Sanaria; University of Maryland School of Nursing; and University of Maryland School of Pharmacy.

Visiting labs gave students a chance to see what happens at companies right in their community, and might inspire them to stay local after finishing college.

Other participants in the event were the Universities at Shady Grove; MDBio Foundation; Rockville Science Center; Montgomery College; J. Craig Venter Institute; Salisbury University; TruBios; Vaxin; and MedImmune.

CATEGORY: Academics, K-12 Outreach, In The Community